Despite the provisional agreement signed between Beijing and the Vatican, the Catholics of the Middle Kingdom remain the object of vexations: in the province of Hebei (in the east of the country) the reopening of churches is conditional on the prohibition against minors frequenting them.
“The doors of the Church are open to all”: calmly, Bishop Jia Zhiguo pushes aside the quill and inkwell held out to him by the communist mandarin in Jinzhou, a city in Hebei province. The bishop of the so-called underground Church of Zhengding refused the strange deal offered to him by the local government: the reopening of churches closed due to the Covid-19 epidemic, in exchange for the promise to prohibit entry to young people under the age of eighteen.
A Maoist exegesis of “let the little children come to me” is not much to the taste of the courageous Chinese prelate. It must be said that he has seen others: at age 83, including fifteen years spent behind the bars of communist prisons, since 1980 he has been at the head of a diocese with more than 150,000 faithful, as well as a hundred priests, and as many religious sisters dedicated to teaching and caring for the most vulnerable.
Paul, a Catholic devotee from Zhengding quoted by Ucanews on July 7, 2020, confirmed that the document was presented not only to his bishop, but to all Catholics: “They were asking the whole diocese to sign the document. All parishes are required to sign a pledge that they will not allow minors to enter their churches or officials will not allow them to open churches.”
Registration for All and Forced Requisition
Another source, quoted by the same Hong Kong Catholic news agency, explains that the authorities are now threatening the diocese of Zhengding with requisition, as well as a church-run orphanage for handicapped children staffed by sisters from the diocese.
On July 6, another devotee, Zhao, corroborated the previous testimony, declaring that the local government is seeking to seize the orphanage: “It is outrageous and a complete lack of respect for religious rights and freedoms, and it tramples on constitutional values.”
Zhao further adds that the sisters in the diocese have been asked to register with the Patriotic Association, a communist state organization that oversees “official” Catholic worship in the country.
In a few weeks, the provisional agreement—the terms of which remain secret—between the Holy See and Beijing in September 2018 will expire. While several prelates plead for its renewal, the lead weight fallen on Catholics in Hebei and elsewhere is not likely to reassure Catholics in China.